Ranking the Top 10 Prospects in the Washington Nationals' Farm System

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterDecember 13, 2012

Ranking the Top 10 Prospects in the Washington Nationals' Farm System

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    At the conclusion of the 2011 regular season, the Washington Nationals boasted one of the top farm systems in the game. Since then, however, they’ve traded away a majority of their highly regarded prospects for big league talent—which paid immediate dividends.

    Their offseason trade with the A’s for Gio Gonzalez severely depleted their system, as they parted with catcher Derek Norris, as well as pitchers Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole.

    Recently the Nats traded their top pitching prospect, 6’9” right-hander Alex Meyer, to the Twins to land Denard Span. Although their much-needed leadoff-hitting center fielder came at a steep price, it was definitely a justified move.

    However, their farm system took the biggest hit from the graduation of Bryce Harper to the major leagues, which was expected given the phenom’s ceiling of a generational player.

    While they still house several top-100 prospects, it’s clearly one of the weaker systems headed into the 2013 season.

10. SS Zach Walters

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 9/5/1989 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 195

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Drafted/Signed: Ninth round, 2010 (San Diego)

    ETA: 2014

     

    2012 Stats

     

    Scouting Notes: Walters was acquired from the Diamondbacks in July, 2011 in exchange for Jason Marquis; has ascended the organizational ladder since joining the organization; suffered broken hamate bone during spring training; upon his return, Walters played at three different levels and finished at Triple-A Syracuse.

    A switch-hitter, Walters employs a balanced and level swing from both sides of the plate; he’s a natural right-handed hitter but is more consistent from the left side; also exhibits more power; hit tool should improve with his plate discipline; too much swing-and-miss given his natural ability, and he’ll need to demonstrate a better feel for the strike zone.

    An excellent athlete with only average speed, Walters has been developed primarily as a shortstop; best defensive attribute is his plus arm which is suitable for almost any position; has played the outfield in the past and has the potential to be a super utilityman at the big league level.

     

    2013 Opening Day Level: Triple-A Syracuse

9. LHP Robbie Ray

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 10/1/1991 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 170

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted/Signed: 12th round, 2010 (Brentwood HS, Tenn.)

    ETA: 2014

     

    2012 Stats

     

    Scouting Notes: After an impressive pro debut in 2011 as a 19-year-old at Low-A Hagerstown (3.13 ERA, 9.61 K/9, 3.84 BB/9 in 89 innings), Ray seemed to be on the fast track to the major leagues; command problems that plagued him over second half of the season were even more prevalent in 2012 at High-A Potomac.

    6’2” left-hander has lost a feel for his mechanics over the last year; his stuff has been much less effective as a result and he occasionally can’t find the strike zone; throws a heavy fastball in the high-80s/low-90s that generates plenty of groundballs; he throws a changeup that plays up due to the deception of his arm speed; his third pitch is a slider which could be a swing-and-miss offering, but lags well behind other two pitches and rarely throws it with consistency; he’s still young and requires some projection, so expect the organization to be more delicate with the southpaw next season.

     

    2013 Opening Day Level: High-A Potomac

8. OF Brandon Miller

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 10/8/1989 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 215

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2012 (Samford)

    ETA: 2015

     

    2012 Stats

     

    Scouting Notes: 6’2” right-handed hitter showcases plus raw power; 18 of his 33 hits went for extra bases this year in pro debut for Short-Season Auburn; has solid plate discipline and will coax walks, but there’ll always be swing-and-miss to his game; development of hit tool will depend on approach and pitch recognition.

    Miller has all the makings of a right fielder given his plus power and strong, accurate arm; limited to a corner outfield spot given his lack of speed and stiff actions; may steal a base here or there, but never with any consistency; I really like him as a sleeper within the Nats’ depleted system; if he can show power frequency and post a respectable average, Miller could move up quickly.

     

    2013 Opening Day Level: Low-A Hagerstown

7. 2B Tony Renda

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    Position: 2B

    DOB: 1/24/1991 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 5’10”, 170

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2012 (California)

    ETA: 2014

     

    2012 Stats

     

    Scouting Notes: Undersized second baseman is listed as 5’10”, 170 pounds, but there’s no way he’s that tall; profiles as a bat-first second baseman with an advanced approach and knack for barreling the baseball; employs a compact, powerful swing, though it doesn’t yield power in the conventional sense; plenty of gap power with slightly above-average bat speed through the zone; doesn’t possesses great speed but is an educated and efficient basestealer.

    Renda’s defense at second base is fringy and there are concerns that it won’t translate at higher levels; lacks flashy tools or actions, but makes all the routine plays; range is limited but serviceable; footwork is overall solid, but at times he can get out-of-sync on double-play turns; no real risk of moving from second base, as it’s the only position where his defensive skill set plays.

     

    2013 Opening Day Level: Low-A Hagerstown

6. OF Eury Perez

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 5/30/1990 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’, 180

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: April, 2007 (Dominican Republic)

    ETA: 2013

     

    2012 Stats

     

    Scouting Notes: Since signing in 2007, Perez gradually has risen through the Nationals’ system; 22-year-old has made major adjustments at each level to retain his above-average hit tool; didn’t reach A-ball until fourth professional season; reached major leagues as a Sept. call-up in 2012 after opening the year at Double-A Harrisburg.

    Right-handed hitter’s plate discipline continues to improve as he’s now aware of both his strengths and weaknesses; has improved contact rate and puts the ball in play to utilize speed; bat-to-ball skills should continue to progress with more experience at higher levels; will never hit for power, but has top-of-the-order potential with effortless plus speed.

    Covers plenty of ground in center field; reads and jumps are still raw but will improve; doesn’t have a clear path to a regular role in the major leagues with Denard Span and Brian Goodwin ahead of him on depth chart; profiles as a solid fourth outfielder, especially given his basestealing prowess.

     

    2013 Opening Day Level: Triple-A Syracuse

5. 3B/1B Matt Skole

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    Position: 3B/1B

    DOB: 7/30/1989 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 230

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: Fifth round, 2011 (Georgia Tech)

    ETA: 2014

     

    2012 Stats

     

    Scouting Notes: Skole was viewed as more of college/metal bat power hitter coming out of Georgia Tech in 2011; turned in a monster season at the plate this past season in full-season debut and legitimized his prospect stock; was named MVP of the South Atlantic League (Low-A) after leading the league in on-base percentage (.438), slugging (.574), walks (94) and home runs (27); important to remember that he was an older, more experienced player in a younger league; posted an .841 OPS in 18 games following a promotion to High-A Potomac.

    Left-handed hitter is a presence in the batter’s box at 6’4”, 230 pounds; demonstrated more natural ability to drive the ball the other way after simplifying swing; excellent pitch recognition allows him to work deep counts; three true outcome hitter; plus raw power is more frequent when he stays inside the ball; strong hitter but doesn’t possesses elite bat speed; upper-cut-style swing will also yield high strikeout totals; with have to make ongoing adjustments in coming seasons.

    Skole is a tolerable defender at the hot corner, at least in the low minors; skeptical of where he’ll be able to stay there; although it puts more pressure on his bat, I like what I saw with him at first base; surprisingly agile with solid range to his right; glove is steady thanks to good hand-eye coordination.

     

    2013 Opening Day Level: High-A Potomac

4. LHP Sammy Solis

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 8/10/1988 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 230

    Bats/Throws: R/L

    Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2010 (San Diego)

    ETA: 2014

     

    2012 Stats

     

    Scouting Notes: 6’5” left-hander with lots of polish and upside; hasn’t been able to stay healthy long enough to move through the system; injury history hurts his chances of eventually reaching his ceiling; was impressive across both Class-A levels in 2011 and then in the Arizona Fall League; suffered elbow injury late in the fall; gave things a go in spring training, but elbow wasn’t improving and required Tommy John surgery.

    Throwing on a consistent downward plane, Solis’s fastball registers in the low-90s with late life to his arm side, and he’ll occasionally reach back for 95-96; curveball is a swing-and-miss pitch but somewhat of a wild card due to its variance from start to start; throws changeup with convincing arm speed and locates it well relative to his fastball; overall solid command but he’ll be challenged at higher levels.

     

    2013 Opening Day Level: Extended spring training; High-A Potomac once fully healthy.

3. RHP Lucas Giolito

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 7/14/1994 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 225

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Harvard-Westlake HS, Calif.)

    ETA: 2015

     

    2012 Stats

     

    Scouting Notes: Was receiving strong consideration for No. 1 overall draft pick last year after sitting in the mid-to-high-90s early in the spring; tweaked UCL in March and missed the rest of the high school season; re-injured elbow in first professional start this summer and subsequently underwent Tommy John surgery; well worth the draft pick considering his ceiling as a No. 1 starter; potential to be the best prospect to come out of the 2012 draft class.

    6’6” right-hander boasts a smooth and balanced delivery; fastball will range anywhere from 94-99 mph and he could carry it deep into starts as an amateur; his curveball is arguably a plus-plus offering and, in all honesty, not fair for opposing hitters; pitch draws as many jelly-leg reactions as swing-and-misses; changeup was a borderline-plus pitch before the injury and should be excellent as a professional; above-average command of all three offerings is impressive given the amount of movement.

     

    2013 Opening Day Level: N/A

2. OF Brian Goodwin

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 11/2/1990 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 195

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011

    ETA: 2014

     

    2012 Stats

     

    Scouting Notes: One of the rare college players with a considerable gap between athleticism and baseball skills; was impressive in all facets of the game in full-season (and professional) debut and reached Double-A; saw his prospect stock take off over the course of the 2012 season due to his power-speed potential and advanced plate discipline.

    Left-handed hitter’s swing can still be inconsistent, but when he’s in a groove it’s pretty; features quick hands and a surprisingly explosive swing that yields slightly above-average power—mostly to his pull side; has the ability to hit velocity; can fall into funks where he commits to pitches too early and tries to pull everything; hits the ball hard the other way when hands stay relaxed; has advanced plate discipline but not necessarily a true feel for the strike zone; possesses above-average speed that’s more noticeable in the outfield than on the basepaths.

    Has the athleticism and defensive actions to stick in center field; shows good closing speed and covers a lot of ground; strong arm is a fit at all three outfield positions; if Goodwin’s debut was a sign of things to come, then Denard Span may be a stopgap until he arrives.

     

    2013 Opening Day Level: Double-A Harrisburg

1. 3B Anthony Rendon

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 6/6/1990 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’, 195

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Rice)

    ETA: 2013

     

    2012 Stats

     

    Scouting Notes: The top bat in the 2011 draft class, Rendon played in only 43 games this past season after fracturing his ankle in the second game of the year; has now suffered three serious ankle injuries, as well as one shoulder injury, over last four years; still lots of potential with the bat, but that’s obviously tied to his health; coming off a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League (.338/.436/.494) where he played third base.

    A right-handed hitter, Rendon has explosive bat speed thanks quick-twitch muscles and relaxed wrists; loose, quick hands allow him to track pitches deep and still make loud contact; chance for a plus hit tool if he can stay healthy; curious to see how much power he’ll show over a full big league season; one NL evaluator I spoke with mentioned that he’s skeptical of Rendon’s ability to hit with wood at higher levels; I think he’d be good for about 12-17 home runs per season; phenomenal plate discipline with advanced pitch recognition; rarely wastes at-bats.

    At 6’, 195 pounds, Rendon isn’t a physical third baseman; range has understandably decreased after a million (it feels that way, right?) ankle injuries; relies on excellent instincts, clean footwork and above-average glove; defensive actions are solid but play out slowly at times; arm used to be stronger prior to shoulder injury while at Rice, but it’s still above average and enough for the hot corner; I’d like to see the Nats give him more opportunities at second base where he has a clearer path to the major leagues.

     

    2013 Opening Day Level: Double-A Harrisburg